Iga Swiatek says she “never really imagined” becoming world number one, after replacing Ashleigh Barty at the top of the rankings.
The Polish star thrashed Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-0 in the second round of the Miami Open on Friday to clinch the coveted number one spot, following Barty’s retirement from professional tennis.
Swiatek, who is still only 20-years-old, becomes the 28th woman to top the WTA rankings in the open era, and the first Polish player to do so.
A ‘surreal’ moment
Speaking after her latest win in in Miami, Swiatek said becoming world number one was something that hadn’t really occurred to her.
“The thing is, I never really imagined that moment because, truth to be told, I was working day-by-day and playing tennis well,” she said.
“But I never had the strong belief that it can actually happen. So, it’s even more surreal for me.”
#2 Iga Swiatek clinches the #1 ranking by battling early and then blitzing, beating Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-0.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 26, 2022
Swiatek, still only 20 years old, will be the 28th woman to occupy the WTA #1 singles ranking.#MiamiOpen
Swiatek has been in exceptional form so far in 2022 and is currently on a 13 match unbeaten streak.
Having won the Qatar Open earlier this month, the Pole followed this up by winning Indian Wells last week to capture her third WTA 1000 title.
And victory against Golubic ensured she would take over from Barty when the new rankings are released on April 4th.
Barty lauds ‘incredible’ Swiatek
Swiatek is a greatly admired player on the tour and many have praised the impressive youngster for her historic achievement.
In her latest press conference, Barty, who had held the top spot for 119 consecutive weeks, acknowledged the prospect of Swiatek rising to world number one.
“If it is Iga, there is no better person,” she stressed. “She’s an incredible person, a great player. The way she’s brought this fresh, fearless energy onto the court has been incredible.
“She thoroughly deserves it. I hope she can take it and still be her[self], do it her own way, and really chase what she’s after in her career and her dreams.”
Similarly, world number six Paula Badosa shared an image of Swiatek celebrating her win on Instagram, alongside a touching message.
“Big congrats my friend @iga.swiatek. Well deserved. Happy for you,” she wrote.
Paula Badosa immediately congratulating Iga Swiatek on reaching the n.1 pic.twitter.com/ClcJP3VVxM— Diego Barbiani (@Diego_Barbiani) March 26, 2022
How long can Swiatek keep top spot?
Given her record so far this season, there are many who believed Swiatek could’ve surpassed Barty anyway, regardless of whether she retired.
The 20-year-old has proven she is more than capable on all surfaces and was the only player to reach at least the fourth round of all Grand Slams last year.
Swiatek has also won a major tournament in the past, having stormed to victory at the 2020 French Open.
Clay is by her favourite surface and the Pole will no doubt enter Roland-Garros this year as the overwhelming favourite.
In terms of rivals, Maria Sakkari and Barbora Krejcikova are just behind Swiatek in the rankings, though both will defend a lot of points at the French Open in May.
Aryna Sabalenka is also in the world’s top five right now, but the Belarusian has struggled for form this season and is continuing to face problems with her serve.
So, there is every chance Swiatek could consolidate the number one spot if she has a strong clay-court season.
And though it will be some ask to maintain her new ranking for as long as Barty, this could well be the start of a new tennis dynasty.